Denisgabel_span3
June 2007

Denis Gabel
Keep on Rollin': A Tribute to Sonny Rollins
Nagel-Heyer

A Sonny Rollins tribute if there ever was one, Keep On Rollin’ has a pairing of young (Jasper Blom) and younger (Denis Gäbel) tenor saxophonists playing tunes from two of the master’s most famous late-’50s albums: Freedom Suite and Way Out West. You’d be hard-pressed to find musicians more heavily in thrall of early Rollins.

Leader Gäbel and his guest, Blom, both share Rollins’ dark, burly tone circa 1958—also his free-associative way of turning a phrase. Neither player displays an overly distinctive approach, but nor are they exactly musical plagiarists. They use the general parameters of Sonny’s style as a guide without—as far as I can tell—copying him literally. Most importantly, they capture the spur-of-the-moment air that’s so important to the act of improvisation, and which I too seldom encounter in the work of young jazz musicians. The bass/drums rhythm section approximates those on the Rollins’ albums, meaning that they don’t do a whole lot more than keep time and support the soloists, ably but anonymously. While I can’t bring myself to rave about what is essentially a remake of a pair of classic albums, I will confess, Keep on Rollin’ has its charms.

Originally published in June 2007
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